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Job survey high on leisure, retail
Hospitality field also shows promise
CooCoos Nest 5 es
Renee Blaise fills out one of her employment forms at the new restaurant. - photo by Emily Saunders
When Shawn Caton posted a “now hiring” banner for the CooCoo’s Nest, he was expecting a healthy response.

“I received over 2,000 e-mails and over 500 applications for the 65 slots,” said Caton, general manager of the new restaurant at Freedom Parkway and Pilgrim Mill Road.

“I probably turned away, without even taking an application, probably 2,000 ... and I’m turning away probably 20 applicants a day,” he said.

But those looking for work at the CooCoo’s Nest and other leisure or hospitality companies are on the right track, according to a quarterly Manpower employment outlook survey. The same goes for jobs with wholesale and retail trade firms.

While an overwhelming majority of Southern employers plan to maintain their current staffing levels, at least through year’s end, businesses in those few industries plan on more hiring than firing.

Construction, manufacturing, transportation and utilities companies are among those with higher job losses than additions, according to the survey.

Overall, the survey reports, the 2009 fourth quarter shows a somewhat stronger outlook than the previous quarter, though a considerably weaker forecast than the same time last year.

Manpower, a leader in the international employment services industry, has released the outlook surveys since 1962. More than 72,000 employers across 35 countries are interviewed for its quarterly reports.

While the metro Atlanta region’s employment shift is gearing toward no change, that’s of little help to the 288,561 unemployed workers as of July.

The Georgia Department of Labor reports July’s unemployment rate as 10.3 percent. Nationally, the rate was 9.4 percent.

In Forsyth County, the jobless rate is 8.7 percent, with 7,229 residents out of work.

James McCoy, president and chief executive officer of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said the best employment field in Forsyth is health care.

Northside Hospital-Forsyth, he said, is “probably our largest, single construction project going on in Forsyth County right now.”

“They’re a good example of somebody that has not only been hiring, but will continue to hire for the foreseeable future,” he said.

While the hospital is a major economic engine in the county, it’s not the only industry doing well. And, as McCoy noted, the local economy is “very diverse.”

“There are communities around the country that are so heavily weighted in manufacturing, that they have really an almost insurmountable problem of how to erect their economic situation,” he said.

“Thankfully, we do have a lot of great manufacturers here. But they don’t make up so many of our jobs that we’re going to be hurt by a continued decrease in manufacturing.”

McCoy said he’s spoken to some chamber members pointing to growth in the county’s financial planning industry. International firms are also investing in the community, as well as professional services.

“I think we’re going to see upticks in retail as we go into this winter holiday season,” he said. “I see a lot of opportunities for retailers who are aggressive with discount programs and ways that help people save money on things they need.

“So I think there’s a world of opportunity out there, particularly in the area of retail.”

BJ’s Wholesale Club could fall in line with McCoy’s assessment. The discount retailer operates 184 locations, including one on Market Place Boulevard in Cumming.

For August, the corporation reported club sales increased 2.2 percent over the previous month, with the exception of gas. Because the cost of fuel has fallen, the impact of gas sales dropped nearly 16 percent from August 2008 to 2009.

Excluding gas, the corporation posted a 4 percent increase in customers, though purchases fell by about 2 percent. Food sales rose nearly 4 percent.

But for Caton, business is less about numbers and more about reaching consumers. The restaurant, which opened Tuesday, is working to attract a range of guests, from sports fans to couples on date nights.

“We have everything from excellent wings all the way up to filet mignon,” he said. “We have fresh seafood, excellent pasta dishes, and everything is made from scratch.”

Caton hopes his eatery will also bring business to local food suppliers.

“Almost every vendor that I’m using [is local],” he said. “Anything that can be grown locally that’s on our menu is local. I think it’s important that we try to keep the business in Forsyth County.”